Victoria regional business owners buy and rent homes for workers to combat major staffing barrier

Victoria’s regional business owners say they are forced to shell out large amounts of money to acquire staff accommodation properties to attract and retain workers, despite thousands of homes sitting empty across the state.

As the regional housing and staffing crisis worsens, businesses in central Victoria that have bought or rented staff housing include Royal Daylesford Hotel, Lake House Daylesford and Hotel Frangos.

They say the lack of rental housing on the market is affecting their ability to fill vacant positions.

Businesses say they have been left with no choice but to buy properties even though 2021 census data released Tuesday revealed nearly 23 per cent, or 2,000 properties, in Hepburn Shire were vacant on census night, more than double from the state figure of 11 percent.

Nationwide, there were more than a million vacant homes on Census night.

Vacant housing includes vacation homes, shacks and cabins, newly completed homes, or rental housing, and is generally not available to long-term renters or people seeking permanent housing when moving to a city.

The owner of the Royal Daylesford Hotel, Cameron Stone, says he has had to spend money on accommodation in order to attract and retain staff. (Supplied: Cameron Stone)

‘Endemic social problem’

Hepburn Shire Mayor Tim Drylie described the short-term housing trend limiting local housing supply as an “endemic social problem”.

The owner of the Royal Daylesford Hotel, Cameron Stone, said he bought a large house 12 months ago and converted it into staff accommodation.

“We all have the same problem, from Echuca to the coast.”

The interior of a bistro dining room with tables and chairs facing the street.
Royal Daylesford Hotel owner Cameron Stone says buying accommodation for his staff was a huge capital outlay.(Supplied: Facebook)

Stone said purchasing staff accommodation was a large capital outlay and took time away from his day job running the hotel, but he felt he had no choice.

Between 10 and 20 staff members have been living on the premises, each with their own bathroom and kitchen.

“We thought that was the way to build longevity into what we’re doing. The staff really enjoy living there, it’s a really nice place to live.”

Stone said hotel and tourism companies providing staff accommodations were becoming a mainstream trend.

Companies create housing solutions

An application for planning permission for a new $4.5 million tourist accommodation facility in Daylesford, which is currently before the council, includes plans to create six one-bedroom suites for on-site staff accommodation.

a middle-aged woman with short, dark hair and red glasses smiles at the camera.
The Lake House, run by chef Alla Wolf Tasker, has had to find accommodation to retain staff.(Supplied)

Lake House Daylesford owner Alla Wolf-Tasker said her business bought an old motel for temporary staff accommodation eight years ago and had some long-term housing, but the problem had worsened in recent years.

“Very often we have them vacant until new staff arrive, but then they are ready when they arrive.”

Frangos hotel owner Louise Melotte said it had been a good business move to set up staff accommodation within walking distance of the Daylesford hotel before the pandemic hit.

“It’s really important that we have that option for people to walk right in. They can come to Daylesford and have a fully furnished property that they can live in,” he said.

“We’ve been doing it for quite some time, but now, more than ever, it’s making the transition to staffing a lot easier.”

The exterior of a stone hotel with the words Hotel Frangos above the windows and seats and tables out front.
Staff at Hotel Frangos have access to furnished rooms within walking distance of the hotel.(Supplied )

Regional areas in ‘desperate situations’

Commerce Ballarat CEO and Victoria Regional Chamber Alliance member Jodie Gillett said Daylesford, Ballarat and many other regional areas were experiencing significant staffing challenges due to a lack of accommodation, but some cities, including Apollo Bay on Great Ocean Road, were in “serious condition”. straits”.

“Apollo Bay is an example where they haven’t been able to attract really key staff to the area, like teachers and medical staff, because of a lack of housing,” he said.

“Applicants are in very short supply for the jobs. It’s an employee market, and they have a choice. If there’s no housing available, then it’s an easy option to go elsewhere.”

Cars parked on either side of a quiet street through a village with hills in the background.
Apollo Bay, on the Great Ocean Road, has had a hard time attracting and retaining workers.(ABC News: Jarrod Fankhauser)

$25 billion annual bill if we don’t act on housing

Anglicare Victoria looked at the affordability of rentals across the state and found that two-thirds of Victoria’s regional areas did not have a single rental listing on 19 March 2022.

A new report, Give Me Shelter, reveals that not acting on housing needs will cost the community $25 billion per year by 2051.

Every $1 the Australian community invests in affordable and social housing will generate $2 in benefits, the report says.

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